Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ah, interns

Weight: 249.1

The scale's up, but scales do that sometimes when you weigh in every day.

So, I work in DC as low-level economist. I'm 23, and only a little more than a year out of college. Now, there are plenty of lame things about my job (low pay, long hours) and about DC in general (it's built on a swamp), but one of the cooler things is that you get interns.

Now, I suppose, technically, I don't get interns. My boss gets interns. But here's a secret about DC: 90% of things that don't involve cameras or schmoozing gets delegated. This semester, my boss has two interns, both of whom have masters degrees and graduated from college in the 1990s. In practice, however, this means I'm managing two people who are 10 years older than me, including occasionally asking them to make photocopies.

However each semester, before my boss starts ignoring the interns (aside from occasional "go ask Hadley" instructions), we take them out to lunch. Technically, I suppose, he takes us all out to lunch, but the point is it's always a good big fun long expensive but free to me lunch. Today was our lunch.

Both of our interns are hoping to transfer into policy from other careers. One of them, before this, was doing real estate in NYC. I'm probably, at one point, going to talk about the NYC thing. (I grew up there, all sorts of associated hang ups.)

But anyway, so we went out to lunch, and she said as the waitress was handing out menus "oh no thanks I'm not going to be able to eat anything off it." I replied back, sort of not sure what was up, "They have all sorts of vegan and vegetarian and whatever else stuff, and I'm sure they could work around any allergies" or something along those lines, just trying to make her feel like included and allowed. "I'm on Jenny Craig," she said back.

I'm going to just go out and for the record say she's not fat. Not at all. Maybe a size 8 or 10, if I had to guess. Not a stick, but well within normal.

When I was emailing the interns yesterday, I mentioned that it was a twice a semester (once at the beginning, once at the end) tradition, and that they should prepare any questions they had for our boss, since this is one of the few times they'll have him as a captive audience. I don't say this to be snide or to brag, but our boss is a big shot. This is a special thing. And every ounce of me was so blown away by the fact that she would come to this lunch and not eat, not even order a dressing-less salad to pick at.

Appalled is too strong a word, but it's the one that comes to mind. I was put off, maybe? I don't know. Then I felt bad and like I was being judgmental: who says you have to eat at social events anyway, and shouldn't I be supportive of anyone who's dieting since, after all, I'm going through the same thing? Why was I so thrown off by this?

Now I just don't know what to think.

Is it bad that I'm not as dedicated to my diet as she is? That I ate the restaurant's fatty food, and not even a salad but a Bacon Tomato and Cheddar sandwich? Is the reason she's thin and I'm not (yet) because I'm not willing to loudly proclaim "I'm on a diet so I'm not going to eat here"?

Or maybe it's not that I've not gone far enough, but rather that she's gone past the mark? Not eating at an important lunch like this is, quite frankly, a huge mistake. For the rest of the program, my boss is probably going to call her "whatshername, the intern who wouldn't eat lunch." (Our summer intern, who spent three years as a consultant and was one year into a PhD program at the London School of Economics is still known as "whatshername, the pescetarian" when on our initial lunch out she voted against a steakhouse and explained that she was a vegetarian except for fish.) We can't give up our lives, our work, for diets. It just won't work, and even if it does, are those sacrifices worth making?

I just don't know.


  1. Sometimes you do just have to suck it up and eat with everyone else. That is one reason I like WW. If I do eat something all horrible and fatty, I count and record the poitns and go on about my buisness.
    That's also the reason I find stuff like Jenny Craig to be unrealistic. You don't learn about nutrition and exercise and cooking. If you quit getting the meals don't you really stand a huge chance of gaining it all back?
    I have learned a new lifestyle, not how to follow a diet.

  2. I think this is craziness. This is kind of what puts me off by Jenny Craig. I think people need to be prepared to eat in the real world....I mean, you can't eat Jenny forever. then again, maybe its just her, because I cannot believe that Jenny Craig program does not have alternatives you can have when in this kind of situation.

    I think its more than her not just sort of feels like she wasn't GETTING what a big deal this was. Dumb....


  3. I think that is totally ridiculous. I hire and manage our interns, and if they refused to eat at our opening lunch, I would think they have little business smarts because part of being a professional is adapting to these types of situations. At least in my industry, we often have breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings with groups, clients, etc. If she didn't want to deviate from her diet, she should have ordered something small and just dealt with it.

  4. My friend Nicole that gave me the bodybugg is on Jenny Craig. She has gone out to lunch with us a few times and had chicken in some form or another.

    I think it was lame she didn't eat something - if someone is going to treat you to lunch there is ALWAYS something that you can eat and not completely sabatoge your plan.

  5. I teach my children this lesson, but obviously your intern's parents didn't! I always tell my children if you are at someone's house for a meal and you don't like what they are serving, don't say anything. Just take what is offered, eat what you can and leave it at that!

    She did make a big mistake, and she will probably never realize what she did.

    Oh, and the whole weight loss thing? If she does lose some weight, what in the world will she do when she goes off Jenny Craig? Sadly, she will most likely gain it back.

    You have a great attitude towards your weight loss journey!!

  6. Im taking a different approach...I think she should have eaten something but Im wondering how big she was prior to this job and if she really isnt just so scared about gaining it back that she will ONLY eat JC stuff? Weird.

    Next time maybe someone can offer to split something with her. I think it was rude but I dont think she meant it that way.

  7. Maybe you admire her in some weird way for standing up for her health. Most people go with crowd so they wont seem different. I like to view the menu before I go to a new resturant so I can plan out my meal. I would like to ask her how it felt not to eat during the lunch. She has a strong will.

  8. Yeah, I have to say I'm kind of the opinion that I don't really give a crap what she ate. Who am I to judge? I mean, she's a middle aged intern who, no matter what she does, is going to be referred to as 'whatshername'. I mean, she's probably got a whole lifetime of experience from the years preceding her internship, and she's probably beyond the point of caring what people think. And for whatever reason, she wanted to maintain control of her eating that day. Big deal. Maybe her weigh-in was that night and she is preparing herself to stand on the scale and finally hit the number she's been striving for for over a year. Who knows.

    I've done it. I've eaten plain tuna on a rice cake while my colleagues catered in food for management meetings. There were snickers and comments. Even from my boss. But it was my business, and certainly not something for me to be judged upon. It's kind of my thing to have tunnel vision until I reach the number - I mean, with JC or whatever, isn't that what the 'maintenance' phase is for - learning how to maintain the weight in the real world?

    Anyhoo, it's probably just the lawyer in me making me play devil's advocate, but I would look at her and be all "wow. she'll do whatever it takes to reach her goal."

    Excellent post. Good food for thought!

  9. I think that sometimes people take the "me first" thing way too far. She desperately needs to learn some etiquette.

    It was socially inappropriate.

    Had I been in that situation, I would have made a smart choice. I would have ordered something I could figure points on (probably chicken) and a salad with the dressing on the side or in her case something similar to the Jenny Craig diet.

    It was a very self-centered thing for her to do. She made the lunch about her, drawing attention to herself in a negative manner.

    That's not to say what she's doing is negative, she just has no grace.

    I admire her, sure, for sticking to her guns. I do not admire her for the way she went about it, though. My gosh, I worked with judges and lawyers for 11 years, and that is just not the way to act. I used to go to social gatherings after work at bars. I do not drink. I always ordered something nonalcoholic, and did so very discretely. I could stand and hold a drink, but not have to drink. No one ever said a word. I did not announce that I don't drink, I can't stand the smell of alcohol, several of my family members are alcoholics, and I find it disgusting. TMI, ungraceful, uncool, and highly judgmental.

  10. I am "one of those". I will stand my ground, unless of course I want to give in. I honestly CANNNOT give in everytime there is some shindig just to be "socially acceptable". Why is every BIG thing in our society revolved around food?

    Thanks for this post though. Nice to know I am not the only "wierd" one. FTR~ I am not on JC.

  11. I have to say I agree with Jo. I admire her for sticking to her guns, but the lunch wasn't about her. She should have ordered something, even if she didn't eat it!
    This reminds me of my last book group meeting and one of the new members (as in very first time there)didn't eat a single bite of anything. And part of the whole deal with our book group is that it's potluck. I just remember being ultra aware of her the entire evening and the fact that she ate nothing. Not even a single nibble.
    Great post! I had to read about it, think and then come back to comment.:-)

  12. I am totally with you. She could have picked at a salad. Dumb ass. You are right, that is how she will be remembered. I know, I used to manage lots of people and they were all known by little things like that.

    Girl, you have a good career ahead of you.

  13. You want to stand out to the boss for good reasons, not for your lunch choice (or non choice).

    Just about every place has something a health conscience person can eat. I can't imagine it would be that difficult to plan accordingly to order something roughly equivalent to what you would regularly eat...or just pretend to eat simply to be polite.

    You can make good choices for your body AND your professional life by just using your head.
    IMHO, she didn't make the best choice possible.

    Sometimes you have to play the game to get ahead.

  14. I kind of agree that she should have at least made a pretense of eating something, but the bigger issue for me is that damn, I would hate to be on a diet that forced me to turn down a free (and likely delicious!!) lunch! :-)

  15. I'm with you. It was not the situation to be awkward about eating, she could have ordered something and eaten a little of it and left it at that. Programs like Jenny Craig make it really hard to adapt to real world situations. Poor girl, she probably didn't realise her mistake at all.
    Good luck on your journey!

  16. well all I got to say is I think your doing a better job than she is! cause if she is so stick to sit there and NOT EAT, than she should be a lot smaller than a size 8/10. And not to mention I don't think its just not that healthy not to even eat a salad, oil and vinegar never hurt anyone! And seriously why would she turn down a salad? think about did she finish her point for the day? was she going to go without food for the rest of the day? I'd rather go over than starve!

  17. Hey GAG-er - This was such a good topic, I had to keep talking about it a little bit on my blog. Hope you don't mind! I love how much you made me THINK today! (and after my stupid "getting locked out" situation, I think my brain NEEDED a real workout!)

  18. it may start out as a diet but it really needs to become a lifestyle change

  19. And that is why I don't agree with JC or Nutrisystem or anything like that. That is NOT practical. You have to live your life. So what happens to her when she gets "off" JC. Will she gain it all back - probably, because she doesn't know how to order.

    Now should have ordered the salad and not the fattening food, probably but a splurge here and there is not going to turn you fat overnight. If you do this ALL THE TIME, then yes. But living the way whatshername that didn't eat at the first luncheon is not practical!!!

  20. I have to disagree with the majority here. Who are we to judge what her situation is? We don't know how far she's come or how much she struggles. I can't imagine how hard it is to sit and watch everyone else eat. She may not even be on JC but have an anxiety issue about eating in front of others BUT did realize what a big deal the lunch was. I know eating out SUCKS for me, because it really is hard to eat on plan when there are so many tasty, fatty, options. You yourself weren't able to make a wise choice but you expected her to? So she took the easier road and didn't allow herself to be tempted, that makes her a poor business woman? I wish I had that strength! This mentality that we have to eat if everyone else is, is why we are all so fat in the US today!

    Sorry to rant, I got a little excited.

  21. I had a comment ready to post that very strongly disagreed with the majority here but I'm going to keep it to myself and wonder why this offended me so! Very interesting!